Bitcoin's electricity consumption this year could be greater than demand from electric vehicles in 2025, a new report suggests.
Mining, the energy-eating process used to create bitcoin, could require up to 140 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity in 2018, or about 0.6 per cent of the global total, according to a note yesterday by Nicholas Ashworth at Morgan Stanley.
That is equal to the total electricity consumption of Argentina and greater than Morgan Stanley's projected global electric vehicle demand in 2025 of 125 TWh.
"Mining is very profitable at today's bitcoin price, and if cryptocurrencies continue to appreciate we expect global mining power consumption to increase," Ashworth said.
He added that this would not likely have a material impact on utility stocks any time soon, but it could in the future.
"While our 2018 projected 125 TWh of bitcoin power demand is a big number, on a global basis this is still not a needle mover for our sector.
"However, if this number grows by orders of magnitude beyond 2018, and it is not clear that this will be the case, it could become meaningful to utilities and renewable energy developers."
Ashworth added that bitcoin demand presents a new business opportunity for renewable energy developers like NextEra, Iberdrola and Enel as well as new big oil firms investing in renewable energy and even new entrants backed by initial coin offerings.
South Korea ban
Bitcoin was dealt a blow today when South Korea, a bitcoin hotspot, announced plans to outlaw the cryptocurrency as part of a wider crackdown.
The notoriously volatile digital currency shed almost $2,000 in hours and briefly fell below $13,000.
It came after high-profile investor Warren Buffett yesterday warned "with almost certainty" that cryptocurrencies "will come to a bad ending".